As we turn our minds to National Indigenous Peoples Day I wonder, what we do have to celebrate?
As a proud Tlingit/Tagish woman from the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, I hope my relations can find reasons to celebrate our resilience on June 21st. Our cultures and languages were once almost lost, crushed under colonialist policies and modern-day discrimination, but we are reclaiming our cultural identities. Indigenous people continue to rise, proving our resilience and our strength.
But each week seems to bring fresh trauma. As the discovery of disappeared children in unmarked graves at old residential schools ricochets across the country, governments have finally agreed to search the grounds of the residential schools for the lost children our Elders mourned since the first Indigenous children disappeared. We’ve seen pictures of the little handcuffs made to subdue our stolen children, and of “schools” designed with electric chairs and graveyards, and we know there are more discoveries to come. For indigenous families and communities, it has been a painful and triggering month. The intergenerational effects of residential schools are deeply felt as more of our ancestors’ remains are discovered across Canada.
More than 130 indigenous children in the Northern Ontario Kashechewan First Nation have been infected with COVID-19 this week, while Yukon First Nations face their first cases of COVID-19. Our children – elementary students and high school graduates are affected as Yukon battles a significant outbreak. Even as we hold our breath and hope for the best, we are reminded that chronic housing shortages, systemic poverty, a lack of clean drinking water and the Intergenerational effects of genocide leave many Indigenous people more vulnerable.
It warmed my saddened heart to see Indigenous communities come together to help honor the found remains and turn to our culture and traditions to comfort and heal each other. It was moving to see so many Yukoners come out to support us and help carry the little shoes to the sacred fire at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.
Our peoples and our cultures have withstood abuse and injustice. Still, we are gathering strength, reclaiming our lands, our stories, our rights and our heritage, and I am reminded that we have a great deal to celebrate.
Celebrate National Indigenous Peoples’ Day with us. Please take some time to honor the little lives lost. Participate in some cultural events – we are always willing to share our culture and our proud history.
Dakl’aweidi Clan, Carcross/Tagish First Nation
Executive Director, Yukon Employees Union